Home > My Not So Perfect Life(3)

My Not So Perfect Life(3)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

She’s forty-five and she’s been executive creative director at Cooper Clemmow for just over a year. Cooper Clemmow is a branding and strategy agency, and we have some pretty big clients—therefore Demeter’s a pretty big deal. Her office is full of awards, and framed photos of her with illustrious people, and displays of products she’s helped to brand.

She’s tall and slim and has shiny brunette hair and, as I already mentioned, amazing eyebrows. I don’t know what she earns, but she lives in Shepherd’s Bush in this stunning house which apparently she paid over two million for—my friend Flora told me.

Flora also told me that Demeter had her sitting-room floor imported from France and it’s reclaimed oak parquet and cost a fortune. Flora’s the closest in rank to me—she’s a creative associate—and she’s a constant source of gossip about Demeter.

I even went to look at Demeter’s house once, not because I’m a sad stalker, but because I happened to be in the area and I knew the address, and, you know, why not check out your boss’s house if you get the chance? (OK, full disclosure: I only knew the street name. I googled the number of the house when I got there.)

Of course, it’s heart-achingly tasteful. It looks like a house in a magazine. It is a house in a magazine. It’s been profiled in Livingetc, with Demeter standing in her all-white kitchen, looking elegant and creative in a retro-print top.

I stood and stared at it for a while. Not exactly lusting—it was more wistful than that. Wisting. The front door is a gorgeous gray-green—Farrow & Ball or Little Greene, I’m sure—with an old-looking lion’s-head knocker and elegant pale-gray stone steps leading up to it. The rest of the house is pretty impressive too—all painted window frames and slatted blinds and a glimpse of a wooden tree house in the back garden—but it was the front door that mesmerized me. And the steps. Imagine having a set of beautiful stone steps to descend every day, like a princess in a fairy tale. You’d start every morning off feeling fabulous.

Two cars on the front forecourt. A gray Audi and a black Volvo SUV, all shiny and new. Everything Demeter has is either shiny and new and on-trend (designer juicing machine) or old and authentic and on-trend (huge antique wooden necklace that she got in South Africa). I think “authentic” might be Demeter’s favorite word in the whole world; she uses it about thirty times a day.

Demeter is married, of course, and she has two children, of course: a boy called Hal and a girl called Coco. She has zillions of friends she’s known “forever” and is always going to parties and events and design awards. Sometimes she’ll sigh and say it’s her third night out that week and exclaim, “Glutton for punishment!” as she changes into her Miu Miu shoes. (I take quite a lot of her Net-A-Porter packaging to recycling for her, so I know what labels she wears. Miu Miu. Marni in the sale. Dries van Noten. Also quite a lot of Zara.) But then, as she’s heading out, her eyes will start sparkling and the next thing, the photos are all over Cooper Clemmow’s Facebook page and Twitter account and everywhere: Demeter in a cool black top (probably Helmut Lang; she likes him too), holding a wineglass and beaming with famous designer types and being perfect.

And, here’s the thing: I’m not envious. Not exactly. I don’t want to be Demeter. I don’t want her things. I mean, I’m only twenty-six; what would I do with a Volvo SUV?

But when I look at her, I feel this pinprick of…something, and I think: Could that be me? Could that ever be me? When I’ve earned it, could I have Demeter’s life? It’s not just the things but the confidence. The style. The sophistication. The connections. If it took me twenty years I wouldn’t mind—in fact, I’d be ecstatic! If you told me: Guess what, if you work hard, in twenty years’ time you’ll be leading that life, I’d put my head down right now and get to it.

It’s impossible, though. It could never happen. People talk about “ladders” and “career structures” and “rising through the ranks,” but I can’t see any ladder leading me to Demeter’s life, however hard I work.

I mean, two million pounds for a house?

Two million?

I worked it out once. Just suppose a bank ever lent me that kind of money—which they wouldn’t—on my current salary, it would take me 193.4 years to pay it off (and, you know, live). When that number appeared on my calculator screen I actually laughed out loud a bit hysterically. People talk about the generation gap. Generation chasm, more like. Generation Grand Canyon. There isn’t any ladder big enough to stretch from my place in life to Demeter’s place in life, not without something extraordinary happening, like the lottery, or rich parents, or some genius website idea that makes my fortune. (Don’t think I’m not trying. I spend every night attempting to invent a new kind of bra, or low-calorie caramel. No joy yet.)

So anyway. I can’t aim for Demeter’s life, not exactly. But I can aim for some of it. The achievable bits. I can watch her, study her. I can learn how to be like her.

And also, crucially, I can learn how to be not like her.

Because, didn’t I mention? She’s a nightmare. She’s perfect and she’s a nightmare. Both.

I’m just powering up my computer when Demeter comes striding into our open-plan office, sipping her soy latte. “People,” she says. “People, listen up.”

This is another of Demeter’s favorite words: “people.” She comes into our space and says, “People,” in that drama-school voice, and we all have to stop what we’re doing, as though there’s going to be an important group announcement. When, in fact, what she wants is something very specific that only one person knows, but since she can barely remember which of us does what, or even what our names are, she has to ask everyone.

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